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The Universe Versus Alex Woods

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  21,524 ratings  ·  2,469 reviews
A rare meteorite struck Alex Woods when he was ten years old, leaving scars and marking him for an extraordinary future. The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, Alex hasn't had the easiest childhood.

But when he meets curmudgeonly widower Mr. Peterson, he finds an unlikely friend. Someone who teaches him that you only get one shot at life. That
Hardcover, 407 pages
Published June 25th 2013 by Redhook (first published 2013)
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Nicole Hi Jenet, my copy actually has some discussion questions at the back (I am not entirely sure where it is, I have so many books!). Perhaps pick up a co…moreHi Jenet, my copy actually has some discussion questions at the back (I am not entirely sure where it is, I have so many books!). Perhaps pick up a copy and flick to the back to see if it has them too :)(less)
Ginia More than anything else in Alex's young life, it permanently marks him as "Other".…moreMore than anything else in Alex's young life, it permanently marks him as "Other".(less)

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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  21,524 ratings  ·  2,469 reviews

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Wow. I laughed. I cried. I laughed while I cried. What a quirky, beautiful, funny, heartbreaking and overall incredibly touching book.
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes, life just lines up in a way that seems like it isn't just a coincidence. Like this:

I'm teaching Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five this fall, so I re-read the book last week. Then, Gaiman's new book was released, and I read that one. I signed into Goodreads to review The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which was really good) and saw Gaiman's recommendation for The Universe Versus Alex Woods. I bought the book without reading more about it because I needed something to read on vacation, and
Extraordinary story... loved this book. A contender for best in 2013.
Erin Laidley
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
The best description that I can think of for this book is that it reminded me of "a mixture of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Up, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and The Fault in Our Stars." While that may seem like a strange combination, elements from all of these works are seamlessly combined to create a humorous, poignant novel that will leave a lasting impression.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods is written as a first person retrospective narrative in the style of Kurt

It all started with a drive, thirteen grams of marijuana and an urn of ashes. This is the story of Alex Woods from the age of 10 to 17. Alex is one unique and complex character. His life was shattered into a new realm when at age 10 a meteor crashed through his bathroom ceiling and hit him on the head. He lives with his mother a tarot card reader and is receptive to more than most. She doesn't try to fit in and her beliefs are not mainstream. He is already seen as different in his community. Aft
Fiona Robson
May 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
“A tale of an unexpected friendship, an unlikely hero and an improbable journey...This novel might just strike you as one of the funniest, most heartbreaking novels you've ever read. This is the story of seventeen-year-old Alex Woods - born to a clairvoyant mother and a phantom father, victim of an improbable childhood accident - who is stopped at Dover customs in possession of 113 grams of marijuana and the ashes of his best friend, Vietnam veteran Isaac Peterson. What follows is a highly origi ...more
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Oh, wow. The Universe Versus Alex Woods starts off seeming like it's gonna be a quirky sort of book: the narration is matter of fact where it possibly shouldn't be, and the situation Alex is in on the opening pages is an interesting one. Unfortunately for everyone who picked it up on the basis of that, it's not really the kind of book it turned out to be. I don't know that I'd call it funny -- it's not laugh out loud funny, anyway; more "wry smiles" funny -- and I don't know that I'd call it hea ...more
Jun 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
In life, there are no true beginnings or endings. Events flow into each other, and the more you try to isolate them in a container, the more they spill over the sides, like canal-water breaching its artificial banks.

This was a very sweet coming of age novel. I enjoyed learning about meteors, tarot cards, epilepsy and Vonnegut. If you enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I highly recommend this. My critisism is that I found Alex to be a bit one-dimensional. I realize that at sixteen you are m
Maya Panika
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
The tale of Alex Woods, age 17, as told by himself, in a steady, logical, borderline-autistic voice.

Struck on the head by a meteorite when he was a child, Alex lives a quietly extraordinary life. An epileptic, obsessed by maths and astronomy, Alex is a deeply geeky, lonely boy with few friends but a complex inner life. The story is rich in references - His Dark Materials, A Prayer for Owen Meany, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Catch 22, Schubert - but most of all, Kurt Vonnegut, who Alex disco
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-favorites
What a sweet book. It's about a boy from a small town in England who is odd and a loner, but also very smart and likeable. He rather reminds me of the autistic kid in Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend - or the main character of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - but more social and less autistic - but he seems like he's on the spectrum or at least a kid with some quirks. Toward the middle of the book, I start seeing similarities to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. BTW, if you h ...more
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013, netgalley
The book starts out with Alex being arrested for having a stash of pot, cash and Mr Peterson's remains in his car. I thought..okay so this is going to be one weird book. Then Alex Woods tells his story.
The story involved is Alex from age 10 until 17. Alex is such a fresh, vibrant voice. I LOVED his character. He is smart, questions lifes mystery's and is somewhat brain damaged from a rogue comet that hit him in the head.
This book just kept suprising me. It makes you wonder how far would you go
So near perfect a read I can't think of any reason not to give it 5 stars. Straight to my favourites list.

I thought Alex such a wonderfully engaging, fascinating character. When I started reading the novel I thought it was headed along similar lines to Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, or maybe The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, both of whom have quirky individuals as narrators, but it quickly became its own story, delightful and charming and entirely unique.
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What an unexpectedly good book. Trouble is now i'm going to have to read Vonnegut and Nietzsche! ...more
Claire (Book Blog Bird)
This review is also on my blog:

When a book opens with a seventeen year old protagonist beings stopped at Dover customs in the middle of what seems to be a nervous breakdown, with a large bag of marijuana and an urn full of ashes on the passenger seat, you know there’s going to be some pretty interesting explanations coming up.

The Universe vs Alex Woods tells the story of Alex who, as a ten year old, was hit on the head by a tiny meteorite. This fantastically improbabl
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I fell heavily for this book. In turn funny, heartwarming, clever and tearjerking, it's an absolute delight from its immediately engaging start through to its finish. It's about (and narrated by) Alex Woods, a quirky, bookish, misfit teen who has suffered from epilepsy since he was hit by a meteor at the age of 10. He befriends an older man, Mr Peterson, and among other things, they bond over a love of Kurt Vonnegut novels. We know from the opening paragraph that Mr Peterson will die, but the bo ...more
Elly Sands
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'll never find the right words to express how I felt about this book other than "I LOVED IT"! The author must be very sensitive and aware of the human condition. This story of a young boy being hit on the head by a meteorite and his ensuing experience is so imaginative, creative, clever, funny,poignant, full of questioning morality, science, love, dedication, quirky characters and twisting plot makes for a very compelling and can't put down read. I fell in love with the young boy as well as the ...more
Marie the Librarian
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I adored Alex. Hes such a smart kid. I love his insight and curiosity. MORE PEOPLE LIKE ALEX. And Mr. Peterson. And their friendship. its just precious. This book gave me Extremely loud and incredibly close vibes. Something about the atmosphere. I loved this book. So much. And such an important theme.
Well, here's the thing, if a book has:

*An introverted bookworm epileptic who loves learning about math, physics, astronomy, and who openly admits that his hobbies are definitely "gay" (in the high school context)
*Unexpected friendships
*Classical music
*Book discussions
*A dog
*Questions about Life and Death and the Universe

I am bound to want to pick it up. Especially with that kind of synopsis. It's one of those few synopses that are spot on. I am all about curious incidents and unexpected connecti
N.E. David
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I first met Gavin Extence at a booklaunch in Waterstones in York. He attracted quite a following and I naturally wondered why. I met him again a few months later at Wakefield Literary Festival. Another following. This time I discovered that he is not only a remarkably nice young man but that he has also written a remarkably good book. No wonder he's popular.
His followers are predominantly women. That's no surprise in literary circles as the vast majority of readers are female, a fact prospective
It's always great when you read a book that you have been wanting to read for a long time, that you have high expectations for, that has been rated highly by your GR friends, to actually be a 5 star read. It's even greater to read a book that you have no expectations of, hardly heard about before you started reading it, and has no indication of greatness based on your friends ratings because no one has read it, and to find out that that book is worth 5 stars.

What a wonderful story. Alex is one
Jun 30, 2013 rated it liked it
i'm only a couple of pages in, so only have two impressions:
1. it's immediately compelling
2. it's kind of simplistic writing. this isn't necessarily a bad thing. it is a seventeen year old narrator and an author's style and language should definitely match the chosen narrator. and simplistic is always preferred over trying too hard and failing at something more sophisticated. i know, i fail at that all the time!

so having finished it -and faced with finishing this review and giving out a star rat
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Chris by: Kats
Shelves: 2016-reads, uk-reads
It took me a while to get into this (like more than 100 page), but stuck with it based on the fact it was recommended to me (hi Kats!), and it has a 4+ rating on GR. And I'm glad I did. I spent more than a year looking for it in new and used bookstores and finally (finally!) found it, of course, at The Strand.

I don't think I've ever met a character like Alex in literature before. This was a fun and heartbreaking read. I think it might be categorized as young adult, given Alex is a teen, but thi
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received this book from Hodder & Stoughton through Nudge.

“Full explanations are much messier. They can’t be conveyed in five unprepared stop-start minutes. You have to give them time and space to unfold. (…) I’m going to tell you my story, the full story, in the manner I think it should be told.”

Alex Wood is not your average teenager. He didn’t have a conventional start to his life. With a clairvoyant mother who doesn’t know who his father is his life was always going to be a little bit differ
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Posted first on Blog critics

Every now and then a book comes along that takes you in directions that are unexpected. When differing backgrounds collide we are often surprised at the outcome. Such is the experience of reading The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence.

Alex Woods lives in an oddly disjointed world. His mother is a bit different than other mothers, and he doesn’t know his dad. He also has the distinction of having been struck by a meteor when he was 10 years old. This added to
Robert Blumenthal
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
For most of its 400 plus pages, this is a simply wonderful novel. My only complaint is that it was just a tad too long. I would have edited about 25-50 pages from it. That being said, I found the young narrator to be a totally wonderful character, and this rates as an excellent British coming-of-age novel. At the age of ten, Alex is struck in the head by a meteorite and miraculously survives with no more disability than epilepsy (not to downplay the significant disability that epilepsy is, but t ...more
I'd give it 4.5 stars .

Things I liked about this book:

- I love Alex's character and how well the author portraits him through words.

- I love that the story is in first person. It seems to go into Alex's mind. We are his audience.

- The fact that a 14 years old boy loves books so much that he manages to create a book club really struck a chord with me. I loved how mature he is for his age.

- I love that this book talks about euthanasia. It is a very difficult theme to talk about and I liked the
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can understand why some people find this book endearing as I believe it falls along the lines of a comfort read for some people. The type of book they read to feel good, with a morality lesson involved. I also find that if something classifies as someone's comfort read that they tend not to mind if they've "read the story before" or any such cliches that may happen in the plot. While I certainly did not dislike this book, it wasn't the above described comfort read for me so I did find the stor ...more
Ibrahim Niftiyev
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I almost forgot what was it like to read a really smooth and relaxing novel. From the very beginning, the narrative attracted my attention and even I read it in the middle of a very busy lifestyle, I could grasp every tiny detail about the book. Overall, emotionally it is the semi-neutral and semi-sad story. I can't say the plot is perfect in terms of providing to the reader certain action points, however, there were a lot of things I emphasized and could resonate with my own life. I think I am ...more
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

*Trigger warnings: epilepsy, bullying, suicide, terminal illness, substance use.
**Also mind the use of some words that are considered slurs (read from a book or mentioned in conversations).
***Long review.

I guess it's wisest to start with a little piece of information of the titular role himself. "Born to clairvoyance mother and phantom father, Alex Woods didn't have the most conventional start in life". As if it wasn't enough, an improbable event hit him (literally) when he was ten; in
Tim Roast
I was expecting big things from this book as it had been hyped up as a book to look out for in 2013. Alas I was disappointed.

At times the book read more like a non-fiction book than a novel. If I wanted to find out about meteors and meteorites I would have bought an astrology book and if I wanted to know the road layout of Zurich I would have bought a map. The theory of everything and chaos theory also got mentions in sections I glossed over. But the reason for all the detail into various topics
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Gavin Extence was born in 1982 and grew up in the interestingly named village of Swineshead, Lincolnshire. From the ages of 5-11, he enjoyed a brief but illustrious career as a chess player, winning numerous national championships and travelling to Moscow and St Petersburg to pit his wits against the finest young minds in Russia. He won only one game.

Gavin is currently working on his second novel.

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